Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Road Trip: Home

Well, I'm back. I'm in one piece and able to sit up and take notice left and right, but don't expect me to provide a definition of the universe and nine examples just yet. I'm busy sitting at my favorite bar, drinking beer and morosely wondering why life sucks.

I have a brother, Shotgun Bob, who got married last October to The Girl. This is not The Girl's first marriage, and along with other baggage she brought along two sons and one daughter, all adults. Son Number One was 25 years old, unmarried, possessed a significant other (SO1), painted houses for a living and decided to start his own house painting company. Being out of work for a while (which provided the motivation to start his own company), Son Number One and SO1 lived with Shotgun Bob and The Girl. Shotgun Bob wasn't crazy about this, but was willing to help so long as the goal was to get four feet firmly planted on their own piece of terra firma. After a few days of advertising on Craig's List, the business just rolled in for Number One, and in three days he had accumulated 30 days of work. Red hot damn, right? Everyone's happy.

Last Monday, Labor Day, Number One lay down to take a nap and woke up on the wrong side of the lawn. Dead right there, as the saying goes. The cause of death is unknown. The Girl is devastated.

Putting this on hold for a moment, I have a cousin via Auntie Annie and Uncle Sardonicus, whom I shall refer to as 88. 88 is a published author and makes her living writing. 88 is self-sufficient and I never really hear much from her, which is understandable given my nature, so when I got a call saying that 88 was sick and in the hospital I was a little concerned. It seems that 88 has been under the weather for two weeks, and her land lady insisted 88 go to the hospital, then took her there. The sawbones ran a blood test, admitted her and started a cocktail of antibiotics and morphine. 88 has been diagnosed with severe peritonitis. Since then I have learned that the antibiotics are not working as advertised, and based on the results of a procedure this morning an appendectomy may take place Thursday (tomorrow), rather than waiting for the infection to clear up. Needless to say, 88 is feeling like 25 miles of bad road being agitated by a road grader in the middle of winter.

In the middle of all this I detected the gentle sound of a .308 being discharged from Flanders Road. Since nothing hit the house, and since all the lights went out I deduced that the sound might be attributed to something else. A transformer, maybe. Walking outside and observing the line connecting home sweet home to the money pit FirstEnergy I discovered something amiss.

Busted Pipe
Yep, no question about it. This just ain't right. I followed the trail back to the pole next to the house.

Busted Pole Tree
Even to my untutored eye, this didn't seem altogether kosher. I mounted my emergency velocipede and pedaled back along the power line, finding another set of lines down along the way. A tree had fallen taking the entire Eastern seaboard down. Again. I wondered briefly if I'd be held liable. So now, with two family emergencies to contend with, we were without power, phone or cable - hence, no Internet connection. I had conveniently left my cell phone at Big Mike's house in Columbus (Mike promised to mail it back to me, which is nice of him) and Mom's cell is low on fuel, showing only two bars on the battery icon. We managed to call the electric company and after navigating the phone tree several times, reported the condition: no power, line down. The helpful lady at FirstEnergy wanted to know what we meant by 'down'. I stifled a somewhat pithy rejoinder about Monica Lewinsky and expert advice.

Help Arrives
Help arrived in the form of two trucks and many officials. The FirstEnergy repairmen directed the chain saw men to clear the way for a new pole and wires, and to give credit where it's due the trees and brush got cleared. The chain saw crew also trimmed a few dead branches from the oak tree in the front yard, free of charge. I thought that was generous of them and slipped them a few bucks for their trouble.

Earth Auger
The job consisted of replacing the pole, transformer and wires which meant that the crew worked until the early morning. After the brush and two trees were cleared by the chain saw crew, a hole for the new pole must be dug and the pole set.

Earth Auger Results
Setting the Pole
Tamping the Pole
Anyone who has built fence knows that you can't just shovel the dirt in around the post, but must tamp the dirt so as to pack it solidly around the pole. The FirstEnergy team used a power tamper to do this, a device something like a jack hammer. This saves the workers a quart of sweat when the set a new pole. After the pole got set, the old transformer must be replaced with a nice new transformer.

Old Transformer
New Transformer
FirstEnergy Work Crew
Not counting the chain saw men, this entire operation involved three trucks and six or eight men working until about 2:00 AM. I gave out around midnight and went to bed.

New Tree Pole
Here are the results: A new tree pole stands next to the old one. We now have phone, electricity and cable. The Internet connection is back. So today I can talk to family members who are in crises.

While I don't agree with FirstEnergy's management decisions (I used to work at Davis Besse) the repair crews did an excellent job and were pleasant to talk to. My thanks to the men who restored power to our home.


Stephanie Lorée said...

Wow. Your life is never dull.

Sorry to hear about the family distress. I hope 88 gets well soon and my condolences to Shotgun Bob & family.

Mad Jack said...

Thanks, Mesmerix. As a matter of fact, 88 is feeling much better which is a relief to us all.

Shotgun Bob and The Girl are doing fine, but SO1 is a basket case. Little wonder, as we all think we're invulnerable until we reach 40 or so.